Zimbabwe government implements 'no work, no pay' rule for striking teachers

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A teacher conducts a lesson to students in Harare, Zimbabwe.
A teacher conducts a lesson to students in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Photo by Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images
  • Zimbabwe's government has activated a "no work, no pay" policy for striking public school teachers.
  • One school recorded a teacher turnout of 12% on opening day, with the headmaster saying they were incapacitated.
  • Teachers are demanding salaries in foreign currency.

The government of Zimbabwe has warned teachers to stop their "act of misconduct" or be prepared to face "appropriate measures" after large numbers of teachers embarked on a strike.

In turn, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), an advocacy group focusing on pro-poor education and labour justice for workers in the education sector, said teachers should not be scared of the government's "no work, no pay" threats.

On Monday, schools opened for the new school year after being delayed by a month because of the country's Covid-19 lockdown measures.

However, public school teachers who earn on average R1 000, or the local equivalent of US$60, have embarked on a strike.

On Monday and Tuesday, children at public schools across the country spent their time loitering or playing. At some schools, they were turned away.

In a letter addressed to staff, the headmaster of St Mary's High School, a Catholic institution in Mashonaland East, said only 12% of the teaching staff had turned up for work.

"Teachers unions have declared a state of incapacitation. We regret to notify you that today (Monday) being the first day of the school term, there was only 12% attendance... by teachers," he said.

READ | French teachers strike over chaotic Covid-19 strategy for schools

In a statement, the government said it was involved in salary negotiations with representatives of unions. But it warned that teachers who did not turn up for work were out of line and said measures would be taken against them.

"Government urges its workers to report faithfully at their workstations to ensure uninterrupted delivery of service to the public. Access to education is the inalienable right of every child. Deliberate interference with that right is a grave affront to the child, as well as to parents and guardians, apart from being an act of misconduct which cannot be tolerated. Consequently, appropriate measures will be taken in line with the relevant procedures," the government said.

The government threat did little to improve the situation as more teachers opted to stay at home on Tuesday until their demands were met.

A primary school teacher said:

I didn't even pay school fees for my own child. I can't afford it and I'm meant to be okay with that and stand in front of other people's children, many of them also coming from a similar situation as mine? It's heartbreaking.

On Tuesday, Tumisang Thabela, the education department's secretary for primary and secondary education, instructed all school heads to conduct roll call and provide the names of teachers who hadn't reported for work.

"Heads of offices should take urgent disciplinary action against any of their members who obstructed the opening of schools and deprived learners of their constitutional right. Where necessary, heads of offices should charge and suspend such members at the school," she said.

She added that a "no work, no pay" policy had been implemented by the government.

The majority of government workers in Zimbabwe earn on average R1 600 (about US$100) but they are demanding at least R9 000 (US$540) through their unions.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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